Emmerdale has confirmed a heartbreaking new storyline for village veteran Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell), as he told Mandy Dingle (Lisa Riley) that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
As the ITV soap continued to air flashbacks revealing the Dingle clan's individual struggles, Mandy appeared to be keeping a secret amid an ongoing murder mystery.
And in the salon, we saw her confront Pollard over a dodgy till he had sold her.
As Mandy demanded that he fix the issue, she was stunned when Pollard broke down in tears. Mandy made him a cup of tea and tried to work out why he was distressed, initially assuming that his partner, Brenda Walker (Lesley Dunlop), was ill.
Pollard stopped Mandy in her tracks, informing her that he has Parkinson's disease.
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Describing how he has been feeling less steady on his feet, and suffering other symptoms like numbness in his fingers, Pollard sobbed as Mandy tried to comfort him.
He revealed that he hadn't told Brenda about his illness, and swore Mandy to secrecy in emotional scenes.
Emmerdale is working with the charity Parkinson's UK, as the show looks to sensitively and authentically portray Pollard's journey with Parkinson's, which is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.
Parkinson's affects around 153,000 people in the UK, and every hour two more people are diagnosed.
Speaking for the first time about this storyline, Emmerdale producer Laura Shaw said: "When Eric Pollard is diagnosed with Parkinson's, he's naturally very scared and unsure of what the condition means for his future.
"The unique position of a show like Emmerdale means we can tell this story really authentically over a long period of time, and we can really shine a light on what a diagnosis like this means and follow Pollard on his journey of learning to live with it.
"Working closely with Parkinson's UK, who have been guiding us through every step of the way, we hope seeing Pollard's story helps to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and show the day to day reality of those living with it, as well as the impact it can have on friends, family and the local community."
Longest-serving cast member Chittell, who has played Pollard for 37 years, added: "I feel really privileged to be given this storyline. Parkinson’s is indiscriminate, deceptive and wickedly unkind, targeting so many.
"I want to do this storyline justice for the most courageous of people who are having to bear the brunt of this condition."
Chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, Caroline Rassell said: "Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, but is still misunderstood by many. A diagnosis can be a blow, forcing people to confront a future different from the one they had imagined.
"We hope that Eric's storyline will increase awareness and understanding of a condition that around 153,000 people in the UK live with, and encourage discussions about the impact it has on those living with Parkinson's and their loved ones.
"It's a privilege to be assisting the Emmerdale team in portraying Eric’s journey, and Parkinson's UK is here to support anyone affected by the condition through our helpline, local groups and website."
Parkinson's is caused when the brain cells that make dopamine start to die, and symptoms include a tremor, as well as pain and anxiety.
There is no cure yet, and Parkinson's UK works to fund research into the best treatments for the condition.
As Pollard comes to terms with his diagnosis in Emmerdale, will he open up to Brenda? Next week will see the character push her away, but will she stop to find out why?
Further information, advice and support is available via the Parkinson's UK charity's website parkinsons.org.uk or their free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.
- 7 Emmerdale spoilers next week: Lydia moves out and what's wrong with Pollard?
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